Big rigs banned from driving across waterfront zone


Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke has decided to ban heavy trucks from driving through Southeast Baltimore's waterfront communities, but even supporters of the move fear it will only push the displaced truck traffic into other neighborhoods.

The decision, which went into effect Monday, means that tractor-trailers are permanently banned from driving through a zone created on a trial basis in February. The zone is bounded by President Street to the west, Conkling and Fagley streets to the east, Eastern Avenue to the north and Boston Street and the waterfront to the south.

The regulation does not apply to trucks delivering to, or coming from, a business located within the zone.

A study presented last month by the mayor's truck task force found that the trial ban was reducing truck traffic by as much as 75 percent along busy thoroughfares such as Boston Street.

"The noise level is way down and one can converse on the phone," said Nelson H. Adlin of the Fells Point Business Association.

"It's made it possible to do a simple thing like go to bed with your window open," said Risselle Fleisher, a resident of Scarlett Place and a task force member. "That didn't used to be an option."

Supporters said the mayor's decision was a victory for the quality of life in Fells Point and Canton and a recognition that those neighborhoods could no longer tolerate the noise, vibration and pollution caused daily by hundreds of trucks.

Another dividend to the city, according to the task force report, has been a significant decrease in truck traffic along Lombard Street around the Inner Harbor.

But officials also found the ban produced an unintended effect: truck traffic along Fayette Street, an alternate route for east-west traffic, increased by as much as 93 percent.

"We're looking now at what to do about Fayette Street," said James W. Causey, the city's acting traffic chief.

Trucking industry officials said they are unhappy, but not surprised that the ban has been made permanent. They contend that alternate routes, either through the city, around the Beltway or through the harbor tunnels, have cost drivers time and money during a recession.

The route along Boston and President streets, they pointed out, has long been used by trucks going to and from warehouses and port-related businesses in East Baltimore.

"My concern is that if you're going to eliminate trucks from a certain street, you'll put them on another street," said Walter C. Thompson, executive vice president of the Maryland Motor Truck Association.

"You take them off Boston Street, and they go up to Fayette and you're starting to hear the concerns of the residents of Fayette Street. They'll just keep pushing them farther north," he said.

The task force will study Fayette Street traffic to see whether Highlandtown and other communities have been hurt, Mr. Causey said.

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